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President Biden Wants U.S. Troops Back Home; Russian Diplomats to be Sanctioned by U.S.; U.S. Pause Johnson & Johnson Vaccine; Some European Countries Stop Vaccines with Blood Clot Issues; British Researchers Looking at Possible Mix and Match of Vaccines; John Kerry Meets With Chinese Counterpart; Kerry Seeking Common Ground In Climate Talks With China; U.S. Calls China An Unparalleled Priority; Afghanistan Withdrawal Will Diminish Intelligence Gathering; White House Plans To Move Forward With UAE Weapons Sale; Fourth Night Of Protest Over The Death Of Daunte Wright; George Floyd's Trial, Defense Pushes Alternative Theories For Floyd's Death; End Of Cuba's Castro Era; Notre-Dame's Restoration Two Years On; Queen Holds First Engagement Since Losing Husband. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 15, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, 20 years after the 9/11 terror attack, the U.S. president is bringing the final U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. Now, that country's future hangs in the balance.

Nuclear talks will resume in the next few hours in an attempt to save the Iran nuclear deal even as Tehran gets ready to ramp up uranium enrichment.

Plus, another vaccine hurdle for Europe as countries and the health agency decide what to do about Johnson & Johnson.

Good to have you with us.

Across the U.S. more than 2,000 lives and $2 trillion, but now U.S. President Joe Biden says he is bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and America's longest war. The long the road ahead will be filled with challenges including keeping a resurgent Taliban in checked, but President Biden says that the prolonged war is no longer aligned with American priorities.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports from the White House.



Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago, that cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021.

COLLINS: President Biden announcing that he will withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11th, the 20th anniversary of the attacks that brought them there.

BIDEN: It is time to end America's longest war, it is time for American troops to come home.

COLLINS: Overruling warnings from the Pentagon, Biden chose a full withdrawal with no strings attached to the political conditions on the ground.

BIDEN: I am now the 4th United States President to preside over American troop president in Afghanistan, I will not pass this responsibility on to a 5th.

COLLINS: Biden spent months deciding whether to meet a May 1st deadline set by former President Trump. Now he must grapple with an intelligence assessment warning the Afghan government will struggle to keep the Taliban at bay.

WILLIAM J. BURNS, DIRECTOR, CIA: There is a significant risk once the U.S. military, the coalition military's withdrawal.

COLLINS: Though Democrats who oppose the war applauded the move, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle questioned it.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Precipitously withdrawing U.S. sources from Afghanistan is a grave mistake.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): I think any withdrawal takes place in that country, must be conducted in a manner that is coordinated among our military, diplomatic, intelligence partners.

COLLINS: Biden made his announcement from treaty room, the same place where President George Bush announced the first Afghanistan airstrikes in 2001.


COLLINS: That night, on Larry King Live, then-Senator Biden acknowledged a long road ahead.

BIDEN: That's the beginning, Larry. We have a long way to go.


COLLINS (on camera): And during his announcement, President Biden said he had actually spoken with President Bush the day before to let him know about the decision he was making, and then we later learned from the White House, he also called President Obama to inform him of the decision to withdraw these troops. Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: Well, the troop withdrawal can't come soon enough for the Taliban, they want all foreign forces out by May 1st. A deadline agreed to by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in the Afghan capital.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: The Taliban is the key dynamic here as I've said, they recently suggested that they weren't going to go to the peace talks in Istanbul that were key part of the Biden plan here when just recently suggested this morning that they have gone 16 days for the Americans to entirely withdraw.

As I say that maybe (Inaudible) before and many think they do need the legitimacy of transitional government here as the U.S. is suggesting alongside the Afghan government to keep air from flowing in when eventually get their hands on the leaves of power.

This country is struggling to keep its life under feet itself at times, and if the Taliban want to control more of it as the actual government in some ways, they're going to need to deal with that. NATO said, as many expected, NATO allies can't really sustain themselves here without the U.S. infrastructure and muscle frankly, they will be leaving at the same time too. And the Afghan government are the key real wild card in this, strange to say that.


They have been opposed to the dynamic of the peace process, they wanted elections first before a transitional government, but today there was a very tame and I think, respectful statement from President Ashraf Ghani who said he respected the decision and they wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible.

This is a presidential palace that fully knows it faces a superior force in terms of the Taliban, they made statements about how they can keep them at bay, they are going to desperately want more assistance for their armed forces, presumably hope that U.S. air power might be at their back possibly in the months ahead. Although that's definitely not part of what Biden is proposing.

Look, America's leaving this war, but the war doesn't end because they are no longer 200,000 troops here, it continues for the Afghan in a darker new phase where the insurgency that caused so many lives to be lost may now be calling the shots.

So, this is, you know, as you say, not something at the forefront of many American minds and it will be interesting to see quite how the world pays attention to it now the international presence draws down.

CHURCH (on camera): CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reporting there from Kabul, Afghanistan.

NATO secretary general says the troop withdrawal is not the end but the beginning of a new way of working with Afghanistan, he says allies must turn from combat forces to diplomacy, economic tools and humanitarian aid.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Our withdrawal will be orderly, coordinated and deliberate. We plan to complete the withdrawal for all our troops within a few months. Any Taliban attacks on our troops during this period will be met with a forceful response.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Now it is time to bring our forces home, we will work very closely together in the weeks and months ahead on a safe deliberate, and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan, but even as we do that, our commitment to Afghanistan to its future will remain.


CHURCH (on camera): The U.S. secretary of state also pledged to stand with the people of Afghanistan, especially those who help the U.S. personnel. But he dodged a question about Afghan citizens seeking asylum in the U.S.

Indirect talks on salvaging the Iran nuclear agreement are set to resume in just a few hours from now. The meetings come against the backdrop of Tehran preparing to boost uranium enrichment to 60 percent, far outside of compliance with the deal. Iran says it's doing it as a response to the attack on its nuclear facility in Natanz but that move is alarming the U.S. and Europe.

And Saudi Arabia is calling on Iran to de-escalate, saying 60 percent enrichment can't be for peaceful purposes.

Well for more on this we want to turn to Fred Pleitgen, he joins us live from Berlin. Good to see you, Fred. So, these indirect talks get underway very soon. But what all can be achieved now that Iran intends to boost its uranium enrichment levels?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it certainly doesn't make things easier, and I think also that incident that happened there at the Natanz nuclear facility, which obviously the Iranians say led them to go to that 60 percent enrich uranium. That is also something that maybe didn't throw a wrench into the process but sort of put it into some sand that they now have to get to, making it a lot more difficult to actually move forward in all of this.

And you know, Rosemary, we've been told by the International Atomic Energy Agency that the preparations that Iran is making to boost their uranium enrichment to 60 percent, that those are complete. The IAEA we also confirmed this as well, they were at that Natanz nuclear facility yesterday, and they then confirmed that Iran is moving forward with those preparations, and that those preparations are almost complete.

Of course, the Iranians themselves are saying that they are using new and more modern centrifuges to do all of this, also on a show of defiance after that Natanz incident, to show that they can still do this and that they can do this on a large and effective scale.

And of course, that is something that is raising all sorts of alarm bells in Washington, in many European capitals as well. The Europeans themselves also condemning that move saying that it could be very detrimental to the negotiations moving forward.

But of course there are also domestic things going on in Iran as well, and one of the folks that has come to word is the supreme leader of the country, and he came out yesterday, and of course that is very significant because the supreme leader would have to sign off on any sort of agreement moving forward or to salvage the agreement and he said that he does not want protracted negotiations, he said that the negotiators on the Iranian side need to be very careful.

And he once again spelled out what the Iranian negotiations -- negotiators have been saying from the very beginning that they want full sanctions relief before they are going to come into full compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement once again.


And of course, that's something where the U.S. has said that it's not going to make any unilateral moves to lift sanctions, for instance, that have been imposed against Iran without the Iranians doing something themselves. So certainly, things have become very, very difficult, nevertheless, we always have to say that both sides are saying they want to do everything they can to salvage the agreement, Rosemary.

CHURCH (on camera): Yes, indeed. We will watch carefully on that. Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Berlin. Many thanks.

Well, sources say the U.S. is expected to announce sanctions against Russian individuals and entities as early as today. It's in response to the SolarWinds cyber hack and U.S. election interference as many as a dozen Russian diplomats are also said to be expelled.

Now this comes amid growing concerns over Russia's massive military buildup along Ukraine's border. The U.S. and other NATO members are pledging their support for Ukraine as they call on Russia to de- escalate immediately.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I call on Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity. We are committed to assisting Ukraine with its self-defense needs.


CHURCH (on camera): Russia says any concerns are quote, "unfounded." The Kremlin also says it's now studying U.S. President Joe Biden's proposal for a summit meeting with Vladimir Putin, the two talked by phone on Tuesday.

The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine will remain on hold in the United States after an emergency review failed to yield any new guidance. CDC advisers say they need more time to figure out if there is a link between the vaccine and severe and extremely rare blood clots.

Authorities insist the pause on the J&J vaccine will not hinder the overall U.S. vaccination campaign. And they say it shows how seriously safety is being taken. But a vaccine expert says the CDC advisory committee's non-decision was the wrong decision.


PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: I think it was an unfortunate non-decision. I think that the reason that they did that was they wanted more information. But I think there is enough information now to make a decision to help clinicians move forward or not with this vaccine.

One thing they could've said was, just explain to people that there is this very rare but very real side effect, remembering that every million people that get COVID, 1,850 will die, there are no risky choices, just choices today different risks.


CHURCH (on camera): The European Medicines Agency is expected to issue a recommendation on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week, but for now, regulators still say that benefits outweigh the risks. Sweden and Spain have both received the vaccine, but are not administering it just yet.

However, France is, French officials say that they have 200,000 J&J doses on hand and intend to use them. Denmark has not made up its mind yet about Johnson & Johnson but announced Wednesday that it's removing Oxford AstraZeneca from its vaccine program.

So, let's bring in CNN's Melissa Bell who joins us live from Paris. Good to see you, Melissa. So, despite many countries putting the J&J vaccine on hold for now, France is moving forward on this. So, what is the thinking behind that?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, there's 200,000 doses that have already been received in France to be delivered, but in the same way that the AstraZeneca vaccine is being administered here, that is, Rosemary, only to people who are over 55 because of those fears of those very rare blood clots in younger populations.

As for the AstraZeneca, as you say, we've heard from Denmark now, remember that it was one of those first European countries to pause the AstraZeneca rollout over those fears over blood clots after some patients in Denmark had been found to have them including at least one fatality in the country.

It's now decided it doesn't need it at all explaining that its vaccination rollout program is going so well that it can simply do without the AstraZeneca vaccine, it's now fully vaccinated 8 percent of the population. It is the E.U. country, Rosemary, that is doing the best for the time being in terms of that rollout.

Now the same cannot be said of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This is a vaccine that European countries were heavily leaning on over the coming weeks to try and improve their vaccine rollout programs. We know that it is the fourth vaccine to be approved by the European Medicines Agency.

And European Commission spokesman and European leaders had said over and over again, that they believe that the arrival of this vaccine would really be a game-changer in terms of getting their vaccine programs where they wanted them.


Now to give you an idea what it represents, in the first quarter of 2020, the E.U. received overall 107 dose -- 107 million doses of vaccines, remember that these shortfalls in the deliveries were very much blamed for the slow rollout of the vaccination programs.

Second quarter we heard from the European Commission, they believe that they would be able to really power on ahead and get up towards that target of having 70 percent of the population, the adult population of Europe vaccinated by the summer.

Thanks to those deliveries which were to help make up for some of those shortfalls. Overall, 360 million doses expected in the second quarter, of those 200 million were Johnson & Johnson, that's how much the European Union needs that vaccine, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, understood. Melissa Bell, many thanks, joining us live from Paris.

Well, British researchers say they have moved into phase two in a pioneering trial looking into mixing and matching vaccine doses, they are also expanding the trial to now include four coronavirus shots instead of just two.

So, let's go now to Cyril Vanier, he joins us live from London. Good to see you, Cyril. So, what more are you learning about this mix and match vaccine, and when might results be known and put into effect?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary, great to be with you. Look, this is a world first, and it's something that could be a major trial with major results, it ties in a little bit to the conversations you were having with Melissa earlier, but we'll get back to that earlier.

So, what we know is that 800 patients have been recruited so far, the trial is currently underway, and what it does is that it mixes and matches vaccines so that you have a different one in the first and second dose. Say you get your first dose with Pfizer, you can get your second dose then with AstraZeneca, or the other way around.

And multiple combinations are going to be trialed because it has just been expanded to include Moderna and Novavax. The idea, we don't yet know, what's the science tells us about the results. We don't have results. But there are some encouraging signs, according to the Oxford study group, the vaccine group that is carrying out this trial, encouraging signs from research done on mice that it could actually increase immunity.

Now the great benefit of this, Rosemary, is going to be logistically for many countries around the world as they roll out their vaccination program, because you can go ahead and give the first doses, that is if this trial actually works and proves that this is good for immunity and that it is safe to mix and match vaccines, which for the moment is not proven.

But if it does, then it will allow countries to go ahead and roll out their first doses, you know, regardless of what vaccine is going to become available when the time comes around to administer the second doses. And we know that in some European countries, this has been a critical issue.

People have been, in France for instance, that Melissa was just talking about, while people have been getting one vaccine, that immediately the second dose has been earmarked for them and sits in the fridge for several months, so to make sure that whoever gets the first dose of a certain brand will get the second dose of the same brand.

Now imagine how more robust, flexible and resilient the vaccination rollout can be if you can just mix and match. For the moment, of course, the -- there is no guidance on that, there is no real-world evidence that this is a good thing.

In fact, the American Centers for Disease Control says we don't want to mix and match, for the moment you stick with the same brand for the first and second dose. But in the real world, it is actually already starting to happen, Rosemary, because going back to France.

Well, when the AstraZeneca vaccine was ruled out for under 55's, over fears of very rare, but serious blood clots, well, what the government announced last week is people who already receive the first dose of AstraZeneca, will be receiving a second dose of something else. So, we will also be getting more real-world data.

And to answer your question, results are not expected until this summer, but we don't have a firm date yet, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Science leading the way, it is just fascinating, isn't it? Cyril Vanier bringing us the latest on that from London, many thanks.

And coming up, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is in China trying to bolster a joint effort to tackle climate change. Will he succeed? The latest from Beijing. That's next.

And later this hour, Derek Chauvin's lawyers tried to cast doubt on what caused George Floyd's death. Why their medical experts say that it should've been ruled undetermined.



CHURCH (on camera): U.S. Climate envoy John Kerry is in China this hour becoming the first Biden administration official to visit the nation. Kerry arrived in Shanghai late Wednesday for talks with his Chinese counterpart on the world's escalating climate crisis.

China is the world's number one greenhouse gas emitter, according to climate watch, its emissions were more than double those of the U.S. in 2018. Kerry's visit to China comes amid heightened diplomatic tensions on other issues between the two nations.

CNN's Steven Jiang joins us now from Beijing. Good to see you, Steven. So how likely is it that John Kerry will have any success in convincing China to reduce its carbon emissions?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Rosemary, it's going to be a very tall order for him for sure. And the fact that he is not even here in Beijing, the seat of this very centralize, the government shows the delicate nature of his visit. The Chinese probably want to put him in a more politically neutral setting and also not having to worry about whether or not President Xi Jinping, who has been trying to present himself as a global leader on this issue will have to meet him.

So, these climate talks are really taking place at a time when the political climate between the two governments simply cannot get any worse as you mention on a whole range of issues. So that's why both sides are already trying to manage expectations.

Here in China's state media in their commentary and its editorial have been emphasizing that these talks have to be conducted based on both parties being equals, not on U.S. terms that the Chinese are not going to make any unilateral concessions according to them, to help advance the Biden administration's agenda of restoring Americans global leadership on this issue.

And they have also pointed out that it's going to be very difficult to carve out one or two of these issues to talk about cooperation when the rest of this relationship is basically in a freefall.

But from Washington's perspective though, as John Kerry himself has been saying in recent days, that this crisis simply cannot be resolved without China being at the table, that's why he is in Shanghai meeting and talking to his Xie Zhenhua, his Chinese counterpart -- Chinese counterpart, and he is also likely to remind the Chinese that there is a huge gap between their very ambitious pledges that they are going to be carbon neutral by 2060.

And the reality on the ground which is they have been expanding the use of coal in the past few years between 2015 and 2019. They actually added more than 316 new coal fired plants in this country, and this trend is continuing despite all the talk of the green post-COVID-19 economic recovery, and that recovery may also help explain why China was the only major economy in the world last year showing a rise in CO2 emissions.

So, Rosemary, all these issues on the table, but few are expecting major breakthroughs at this stage. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Steven Jiang joining us live from Beijing. Many thanks.

For more on the U.S.-China climate talks, let's bring in former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, he is joining us live from Brisbane. been. Great to talk with you.



CHURCH: So as a former Australian prime minister, you've had your fair share of battles with China, and now of course we seen U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on a very delicate mission to find common ground with Beijing over climate change.

As he tries to convince the country to cut carbon emissions, and roll back coal-based power plants. How much success do you think he will have, and what my China wants in exchange here?

RUDD: Well, Rosemary, since leaving the political office in Australia, I've been president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, and what we have done in the last 12 months is in fact convene a second track dialog between the Americans and the Chinese on what to do on climate together if the Democrats were to win the election.

And that has involved John Kerry's counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, it has involved John Kerry himself because we know his position back then. So, we have been very familiar with the two negotiating positions of the Americans and the Chinese sides on this question over the last period of time.

Looking therefore to the future, as your correspondent from China said before, the critical thing from America's perspective is lifting China's actual ambition between now and 2030 on what reduction it brings about in its carbon emissions in the immediate term in order to make its carbon neutrality target of 2060 credible.

And that's where the Americans are looking for, not just fresh commitments but new evidence that the construction of coal fired powered stations will cease in China. That's the big demand on the American side. And for Chinese it would be to ensure that they do not, as it were, given Biden's priorities that he's attach to climate change action, lose their own global leadership on the climate change question during the four years when President Trump took America out of the field altogether.

CHURCH: And John Kerry's visit of course comes in the midst of increased diplomatic tensions between the two countries, U.S. support for Taiwan, top of that list is China flexes its military muscles in the region, and then of course, there is the pandemic that originated in China and many other issues as well.

But how much more complicated does all of this make Kerry's effort to find a positive path forward with this issue of climate change?

RUDD: I think the first thing for us to understand, Rosemary, is that my judgment is both in Beijing and Washington each government has concluded that it is in its interest to act on climate change. They've done the math, they've done the science and they've worked out that as the world's two largest polluters, unless they act, environmental consequences and economical consequences for each of them are bad.

That's why there will be a lot in my judgment of diplomatic posturing and posturing that underneath it all, there is a fundamental national interest-based commitment on the part of both these governments to act.

I think the second thing is, when you look at the complexity of the relationship, which you just rightly pointed to, and everything that's heading south in the relationship and going wrong, the challenge for both John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, is to create this special climate change collaboration lane in the midst of a highway, which frankly, all the rest of the traffic is blocked, or engaged in collisions.

Now, I think both these individuals deeply experience and respective within both the systems are capable of doing that, reinforced by the national interests, which are driving each country's ultimate policy decisions.

CHURCH: The problem of course, is China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Back in September, of course, President Xi Jinping did pledge to make China carbon neutral by 2060, but there aren't many signs that China is moving in that direction.

RUDD: Well to be fair to the Chinese, there are a number but there need to be more. If we look carefully at the content of the 14th 5- year plan, which was released in March, finally and formally, you are right to say that there is nothing particularly new in it.

There is one you mention which we should focus on in terms of renewable energy. But the critical thing is this, when will the Chinese submit their new, what's called in the language of climate change negotiations, their new nationally determined commitment, their NDC to the Paris Treaty process run by the United Nations between now and the next meeting of the parties, which will occur in November this year in Glasgow.

Now that is where China has the opportunity to, as it were, seize the stage, seize the moment and frankly, demonstrate that they'll be serious in their commitments, vis-a-vis, 2060 carbon neutrality and a much earlier carbon peaking target before 2030.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, the world will be watching very carefully. Kevin Ruder (ph), many thanks for talking with us. I appreciate it.

An official delegation of former U.S. officials sat down with Taiwan's president in Taipei, one day after President Joe Biden sent them there in a show of support, that move followed China's recent military exercises in the region. Taiwan said the visit marks a deepening partnership with the U.S. But Beijing says that it firmly opposes any form of official exchange between the two.

Intelligence spy chief have a warning they say China, not Russia, is a bigger threat to the country at present. More of what was revealed of the worldwide threat hearing next.

Plus, the Trump White House was pushing for controversial arms sale last year, and now the Biden administration wants it to go forward. We will have details on that and a live report.



CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I don't think there's any country that presents a more severe threat to our innovation, our economic security and our Democratic ideas.


CHURCH (on camera): That is the FBI Director testifying at the U.S. Senate hearing on worldwide threats in the coming hours, the hearing will resume, this time in the U.S. House of Representatives. And although the intelligence chief says that Russia, Iran and North Korea all pose serious dangers to the U.S., they are calling the threat from China an unparalleled priority.

CNN Alex Marquardt has the disturbing details.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There was so many important and frankly daunting threats to discuss in this worldwide threats hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee that after the Director of National Intelligence was done with her introductory remarks, the chairman, Senator Mark Warner commented that it was a long list of what he calls awful things.

The Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines was asked about the competing theories about the origins of coronavirus in China, whether it escaped from a lab or move from an animal to humans in nature. She said, the intelligence committee still doesn't know.

AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It is absolutely accurate that the intelligence community does not know exactly where, when or how COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially.

MARQUARDT: Now this hearing came the same day as President Joe Biden announced the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan which the CIA Director Bill Burns, said would result in a significant risk for U.S. Intelligence gathering.

[03:35:00] According to Bill Burns, ISIS and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan no longer

pose a threat to the U.S., for now, but withdrawing troops means pulling back critical support for intelligence operation to monitor those terrorist groups. Take a listen.

WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: I think it is also clear that our ability to keep that threat in Afghanistan in check, from either al- Qaeda or ISIS in Afghanistan has benefited greatly from the presence of U.S. and coalition militaries on the ground and in the air, fueled by intelligence provided by the CIA and other intelligence partners. When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish, that is simply a fact.

MARQUARDT: Burns said that the CIA would still maintain what he called, a suite of capabilities, and build other capabilities in order to keep their eyes and ears on the ground in Afghanistan.

On Russia, Bill Burns called their military buildup in Ukraine a serious concern and said that it could be a precursor to what he called, limited military (inaudible) into Ukraine by Russia. On China the U.S. Intelligence chief says, the country is an unparalleled priority. China has become, what they call a mere pure rival to the United States, across a number of areas that threaten the U.S.

In terms of economic espionage, the FBI Director Chris Wray said there are 2,000 open FBI investigations tied back to the Chinese government, and that a new one is opened every 10 hours.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH (on camera): The U.S. State Department told CNN that the Biden administration plans to move forward with a massive weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates. CNN's John Defterios is standing in Abu Dhabi, he joins us now. Good to se you, John.

So, President Biden was very quick to ask for a review of these sales to the UAE after being sworn into office, but that apparently didn't last very long. Why the eagerness to move forward on this?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR (on camera): I was going to try to draw the best analogy, the political analogy. I think he hit the pause button, Joe Biden, very early in the administration but then lifted it when it came to the UAE less than 100 days in to his work in the White House here. And I think it is an indication, Rosemary, how much things have shifted so quickly after the signing of the Abraham accord back in September under Donald Trump, but it was a project worked out for the better part of a decade according to sources.

The UAE was the first on deck to push this process along. It is interesting, at the core of this package is the F35 jet fighter, it is a 23 billion dollar deal, as you're suggesting here, but Israel is not pushing back against that agreement, that gives you the sense of the business ties, the political ties, the security ties being developed between the UAE and Israel.

At the center of that is Mohamad Bin Zayed, who is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, but most importantly controls the foreign affairs and military portfolios for the UAE overall. Very key ally, again, it is another signal over the last couple of weekends.

John Kerry, the climate envoy, former U.S. Secretary of State chose Abu Dhabi to have the climate talks with the region here, it is a major oil producer but making the energy transition and wanted to send that signal that it can lead that discussion in the broader Middle East and North Africa ahead of COP26, Rosemary?

CHURCH: How much resistance was there from Democrats on Capitol Hill and are the sales imminent?

DEFTERIOS: Yes, because Joe Biden gave it a green line, I wouldn't suggest that this is going to happen quickly, In fact, State Department officials were guiding everybody in the media to suggest that it could take up until 2025, if not longer, so there is not a rush to do it because of the sensitivity of the products.

And we've heard overnight from the foreign affairs chair in the House on Capitol Hill, Gregory Meeks, who said he wants to take a deeper dive on the clearance by the Biden administration, almost suggesting that this needs more analysis before going ahead, and that was because of UAE's participation in Yemen. It's a pledged to pull out when the time is right, In fact, it is already starting to backtrack on that.

And I think the shade and the difference here between the UAE, which the Biden administration is willing to go forward with, Saudi Arabia and its weapons that Donald Trump was pushing forward towards the end of his administration, not lifted just yet. Coming to the sense of the priorities in the region.

CHURCH (on camera): Alright. John Defterios, joining us from Abu Dhabi. Many thanks.

Well, protesters face off with law enforcement in Minnesota for a fourth night, demanding justice after the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright. As a nighttime curfew set in, demonstrators threw fireworks and bottles at police while they use flashbangs and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd outside of the Brooklyn Center police department. About 24 people were arrested.


The latest protest started hours after ex-officer, Kim Potter, was arrested and charged with second degree manslaughter. She makes her first court appearance later on Thursday.

Well, just 10 miles away, the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is underway, on Wednesday, a medical expert for the defense posed a number of alternate theories for George Floyd's death other than Chauvin kneeling on his neck.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is following the trial from Minneapolis. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Day two, defense witnesses in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and the topics shifted from use of force to cause of death for George Floyd.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: Did you form in your opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty what you thought was the principal cause of Mr. Floyd's death?


NELSON: And what is that?

FOWLER: Cardiac arrhythmia, due to hypertensive (inaudible) cardiovascular disease, during restraint.

JIMENEZ: In other words, a bad heart while being restrained by police. No mention of asphyxiation as other doctors have testified, or low levels of oxygen brought on by being chest down on the street handcuffed with the weight of three officers. Doctor David Fowler went on to testify about what he thought were several possible contributing factors to George Floyd's death.

FOWLER: So we have a heart that's vulnerable because it's too big, there are certain drugs that are present in his system that make it, put it on risk of an arrhythmia.

JIMENEZ: He added the potential for carbon monoxide from the squad car's exhaust.

FOWLER: It is an extremely toxic gas.

JIMENEZ: Fowler also testified that the force applied by the knee of Chauvin would not have directly impacted George Floyd's ability to survive.

NELSON: In your opinion, Mr. Chauvin's knee in any way impacted the structures of Mr. Floyd's neck?

FOWLER: No it did not, none of the vital structures were in the area where the knee appear to be from the videos.

JIMENEZ: But outside of this trial Doctor David Fowler faces his own legal issues among others, accused in a federal lawsuit filed of covering up police responsibility in the 2018 death of 19 year old Anton Black in Maryland. And falsely attributing the cause of death to a heart condition, bipolar disorder and or other natural causes. They're by blaming the victim for his own death and obscuring official responsibility, according to the complaint.

A representative from Fowler's legal team told CNN, our case is in litigation and we cannot comment. Back in this trial during cross examination, prosecutors pushed back on the doctors assertions.

UNKNOWN: It's a yes or no question?


JIMENEZ: They specifically focused on the cause of death, the central argument in this trial.

JERRY BLACKWELL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: If a person dies as a result of low oxygen that person is also going to die ultimately of a fatal arrhythmia, right?

FOWLER: Correct, every one of us in this room will have a fatal arrhythmia at some point.

BLACKWELL: Right, because that's going to how you go?


JIMENEZ: Taking the witness to a familiar bottom line.

BLACKWELL: Do you feel that Mr. Floyd's should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse the cardiac arrest?

FOWLER: As a physician, I would agree.

BLACKWELL: Are you critical of the fact that it wasn't given, immediate emergency care when he went in cardiac arrest?

FOWLER: Yes, as a physician I would agree.

JIMENEZ: And by all accounts, jurors were taking lots of notes during Doctor Fowler's testimony. I should mention they did not hear in court about his prior controversy, but nonetheless, they were engaged even talking to each other at points during sidebars.

And for the defense overall this was really a chance to counter medical experts after medical expert prosecutors brought to the stand at really a critical time for the defense trying to make an impression on jurors in this final lead up to closing arguments expected to now just be days away.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, the world will soon witness the end of an era, but even though a Castro will no longer be in charge in Cuba, how much will actually change in the communist country? We will take a look.



CHURCH: Well, Cuba is set to enter a post Castro era this week for the first time in over half a century. Raul Castro plans to step down as head of the country's communist party, the transition of power from the so-called historic generation will happen at the Party Congress scheduled to begin Friday. It will be the first time since a 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro and his brother that a Castro will not be in charge.

Jorge Duany, is Director of the Cuban Research Institute and professor of anthropology at Florida International University. Thank you for talking with us.


CHURCH: So, the first order of business for Cuba's communist party Congress in Friday will be to select, Raul Castro's replacement after more than 50 years of the Castro dynasty. Who will likely be his replacement, and how much change might that person usher in?

DUANY: It most probably succession will be the current president Miguel Diaz-Canel who was vice president under Fidel Castro when he was president and he has been sort of appointed and has risen through the ranks of the communist party for many decades, and apparently he has the approval of the current foreign secretary Raul Castro. So nobody is really expecting a major change in terms of political, or economic reforms.

In fact, Diaz-Canel is well known for his mantra of continuity that has been his logo throughout his presidency. So, we should expect more the same, more of the same kinds of economic and political measures that were taken during Raul Castro's regime.

CHURCH: So, let's look at that. Because in the midst of this pandemic, Cuba is facing a crushing economic crisis that has seen soaring inflations result in long lines for food and medicine, when Castro steps down Friday as the communist party first secretary general, the most powerful political position in Cuba, his replacement will face a very daunting economic challenge.

What needs to be done to turn this around? Or do you think they will just continue with the same economic reforms that have resulted in problems for everybody there in Cuba?

DUANY: Yes. Some of these policies, unfortunately, which economists have been recommending for a long time such as for instance this year the very complex dual monetary system was eliminated, now that has led precisely to inflation and rising cost of living and sheer necessities by most of the Cuban population. But it had to be done. It is very difficult to maintain a functioning economy with two or three different currencies.

The other major reform that Raul Castro initiated and will probably continue and deepen under (inaudible) is the expansion of the so- called non-(inaudible) economy, mainly self-employed workers and they have already expanded the list of allowed occupations that people can do on their own.

And that is a necessary change that will likely continue to take place as the Cubans are unable to really employ everyone as it used to be in the 1960s or 70s. So, those are the two major issues. A pending issue, of course, is the relations with the United States and that will have to wait I guess, until the new Biden administration decides on what course it wants to follow.


CHURCH: Yes. Of course, and of course at the top of the official agenda for the party Congress Friday, will be selecting Castro's replacement, then reviewing economic policies and goals and also analyzing the parties political work, but how challenging and painful will these next few years be for Cuba as it charts a new leadership path?

DUANY: Unfortunately, these are trying times of course, for everyone around the world, especially because of the pandemic, the coronavirus pandemic. Cuba is still very much in the midst of this pandemic, and in fact, it is still experimenting with its own vaccines, so people have not begun to be vaccinated yet against the coronavirus.

And again the economic recession that has hit Cuba very hard, especially as a result of the closing down of borders, and the decline, or collapse actually, of the tourism industry. So, it is going to be very difficult for the island to recover under any kind of government.

But again, the new secretary and the current president will probably be the same person, will have to take a very serious look at what are the options in the next few years so that the living conditions of Cubans can improve significantly in the short term.

CHURCH: And we will be watching to see what happens Friday. Jorge Duany, of Florida International University, thank you so much for joining us.

DUANY: Thank you very much.

CHURCH: Well, two years after Notre-Dame went up in flames in Paris, what does the famous cathedral look like now? CNN got special access and we will show you.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, Thursday marks two years since the Notre- Dame cathedral in Paris, one of the most visited sites on earth caught fire. French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to make an appearance there in the coming hours. Many of you, of course, we're watching CNN as Notre-Dame was saved from total destruction.

CNN's Melissa Bell got rare access to see how the restoration is looking so far.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Its vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows and elaborate columns, as you can see on these images shot by CNN, so much of what makes Notre-Dame one of the world's most exquisite profit wonders stands tall, almost miraculously. The construction of the cathedral may have taken 182 years from when it began in 1163, it took the fire of 2019, a matter of hours to compromise its stability. The work of the last two years has been all about ensuring that the cathedral will stay upright.

JEAN LOUIS GEORGEIN, NOTRE-DAME RECOSNTRUCTION CHIEF: We had to be sure that the structure is solid, so I think a lot of measures had gone consolidate, we don't want to make a weak construction without being sure.

BELL: Here you can see the iconic north tower that at one point had been threatened by the flames on the night of the fire, in the end they were put out before it could collapse. But this was where the most devastating part of the fire took place. It was here that the famous Notre-Dame's spire one stood.


As the world watch, the spire which had been under renovation collapsed. Breaking through the vaulted ceilings which then crashed into the nave. The scaffolding that had surrounded it, 40,000 tubes of metal now twisted into the structured then had to be carefully picked through and removed. General Jean Louis Georgein who is in charge of the renovations gave CNN a rare tour.

GEORGEIN: This is the place where the fire collapse, you know, this is the center of the drama. BELL: The general then showed us the exact spot where the spire first

came crashing through. Here the vaulted ceiling is held up by wooden pillars, each weighing a ton and a half.

They ensure, explains the project manager that if the stone give way for whatever reason, bad weather, a tremor or a shocked, the wooden support beams will keep the structure standing. Now that the scaffolding for the renovations is ready, General Georgein says that the work of rebuilding Notre-Dame vaulted ceilings and its spire will begin before the end of the year.

This is the central part of the nave, where the great majority of the reconstruction is going to take place since it is here that the spire collapsed bringing down the stone structure with it. Elsewhere, what is really remarkable is how intact the structure is. These stones that had stood for more than eight centuries almost exactly as they were.

Outside to, the cathedral's iconic gothic facade stands as a testament to a construction that has proven as sturdy as it is delicate. Cathedral officials say that almost a billion dollars have been raised through donations from 150 countries so far. A reminder of the place that Notre-Dame has not just in the history of France, but in the hearts of so many all around the world.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH (on camera): Well, the royal family is back at work after the

death of Prince Philip. Queen Elizabeth held her first in-person royal engagements since the loss of her husband. A ceremony for the outgoing Lord Chamberlain. Meanwhile, the duke and duchess of Cambridge shared family photos on social media remembering Prince Philip as a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Family members are in a two-week mourning period, preparations are underway for the funeral Saturday at Windsor castle.

And thank you so much for your company, I'm Rosemary Church, CNN Newsroom continues next with Kim Brunhuber. Have yourself a wonderful day.